Slim Willet will forever be remembered as the composer of « Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes ». The song was a monster hit in 1952, initially for Slim Willet himself, then for the likes of Skeets McDonald, Ray Price and Red Foley. The song also made inroads into the pop field, with successful covers by a slew of pop singers, including a N° 1 hit for Perry Como in 1953.
Ironically « Don’t let the Stars Get In Your Eyes » was the B side of Willet’s second release on his own 4 STAR Custom pressed SLIM WILLET label. Slim gleefully recalled in a 1950’s article in COWBOY SONGS that 4 STAR had written to him upon receipt of his masters advising him that « Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes » was – quote – « Off beat, off meter, off everything and would not sell ». Needless to say when the record started to attract considerable attention, 4 STAR speedily reconsidered their position, brushed aside any doubs they may have harboured about the song, and signed Slim Willet to a recording deal.
Before taking a closer look at what led on from the success of « Don’t let The Stars Get In Your Eyes », it would be better to first take a glance at Willet’s formative years in order to put events into perspective.
Slim Willet was born Winston Lee Moore on 1rst December 1919 in Erath County, Texas, a rural setting situated a little South of Highway 20, halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene.
AAfter leaving high school Slim worked as a cotton picker, truck driver, carpenter and rock mason before a stint in the U.S. Army during the second world war. In 1946 , Slim enlisted at the Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene to take a course in Journalism. In 1948, the final year of the course, Slim took on the job as the station manager of the University’s radio station. That experience whetted Slim’s appetite for radio work, and upon his graduation from University in 1949 he secured himself a job at radio station KRBC in Abilene.
In his spare time, Slim dabbled at songwriting, his first successful composition was with « Pinball Millionaire », although it was not clear whether or not Willet was the sole writer of the number. Hank Locklin had a version on 4 STAR, then Gene O’Quin on CAPITOL.
In 1950 Slim landed a recording contract with the Dallas based STAR TALENT label. His first session for the label produced « I’m A Tool Pusher From Snyder », which generated a great deal of interest and sales in the Lone Star state.. Jimmie Dolan covered the song on CAPITOL. Two further sessions for STAR TALENT followed, producing three other releases.
After STAR TALENT, Willet recorded two songs for 4 STAR, both were released in the labels « x » series ». Meanwhile back at radio station KRBC in Abilene, Willet was spinning discs daily. Monday to Friday, 1.30PM to 2.30PM, whilst at the weekends, he was presenting a busy schedule each and every Saturday, starting with a religious program at 8.00 in the morning, culminating with his appearance as the emcee of the Big State Jamboree in the evening.
It was one Saturday, in the 1200 seater auditorium In Abilene, that Slim Willet set up his recording equipment to record « Don’t let The Stars Get In Your Eyes ». He was backed by Shorty Underwood and the Brushcutters. Jean Stansbury on guitar (who had recorded a duet with Willet on STAR TALENT), Georgia Underwood on bass, Vaughn O’Shields (later Vaughn Shields on IMPERIAL) on steel guitar, and Prize Self on piano. Earl Montgomery doubled on guitar, and Shorty Underwood on fiddle.l
though 4 STAR put the full weight of the promotional machinery to work, desperate to find a follow up hit to « Don’t Let The Stars… », and Willet cut another two dozens of sides for them, he was unable to repeat the success. 4 STAR even leased material to DECCA.
Willet quit 4 STAR in 1956 and set up his own EDMORAL label in Abilene. Less than a year later, he changed to name to WINSTON. Throughout the 8 or 9 years of activity, the label issued some first rate Country and tough rockers. Even Willet himself ventured into the Rock & Roll field, accompanied by the likes of pianist Dean Beard, recording under the pseudonym TELLI W. MILLS (Slim Willet spelled backwards).